Winter is a joyous time of prancing through the snow trying not to get sunburn from the reflected sunlight. Perhaps not. This year it’s been more about the variability. I’m always on the lookout for the right insulation combination for different circumstances, lets take a look at the Arc’teryx Proton AR Hoody.
The Proton is designed as a softshell and/or midlayer piece. In reality it’s a 3 season softshell (with the odd winter bluebird day thrown in) or a midlayer for winter use. There are two weights of Coreloft continuous insulation used, with the usual body mapping layout to focus most warmth in the key areas. The outer shell is Fortius Air which is a fancy name for a nylon/elastane mix.
There are two waist pockets and two chest pockets up high which will take a phone or a GPS, or the odd cereal bar. These are very handy when you are wearing a pack with a waist belt. There’s an adjustment cord around the waist and one on the hood at the rear which can be operated one handed. My size Medium weighs in at 470g.
Get it out on the mountain and the key element is breathability and thermal management. The holy grail is a thermal layer that keeps you warm but not too hot when you are moving but still keeps you from chilling when you stop. The Proton does a good job of this, particularly when backpacking. Hauling a big bag through snow drifts can result in overheating, especially if you are as unfit as I am, but worn on top of a decent base layer I found it to be very good at keeping me at the right temperature. Stopping to puff and pant and take the odd photo, I didn’t need to put on another layer to be comfortable.
In more moist conditions (and we have had to enjoy these a lot so far this winter) it layers well under a hard shell and there’s no need to worry about the damp ruining your down. The material is great at shifting moisture away from you and out to your shell, but your mileage will vary depending on the shell you use. The hood is excellent for fit, but don’t expect it to repel the rain for a long time, it’s more for keeping the wind off and keeping you warm on stops.
So is it the holy grail of insulation pieces? Well I think perfection is hard to find, but I do know that it’s been the first item to get packed for all my winter outings so far, which is a pretty good sign. The Proton is an excellent choice for a lightweight winter mid-layer that’s comfortable all day long in a variety of conditions.